President Trump says he was “very respectful” in his condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson — and rejected her claim that he did not appear to know the slain soldier’s name.
“I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson,” Trump tweeted on Monday, “and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”
I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2017
In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Myeshia Johnson said that Trump struggled to remember her husband’s name on the call, leaving her “very angry.”
“I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name,” Johnson said. “And that’s what hurt me the most, because if my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name?”
“That’s what made me upset and cry even more because my husband was an awesome soldier,” she added.
The deaths of Johnson and three other U.S. service members killed in an ambush in Niger on Oct. 4 are under investigation, U.S. officials said last week.
Trump’s condolence calls with the families of four Green Berets on Tuesday stirred controversy after Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., who was in a car with Johnson when Trump spoke with her, said the president told the grieving mother of two that the 25-year-old soldier “knew what he signed up for.”
“How could you say that to a grieving widow?” Wilson told a Miami television station shortly after the call. “And he said it more than once. I said this man has no feelings for anyone. This is a young woman with child who is grieved to her soul.”
Trump said the Florida congresswoman “totally fabricated” what he had said on the call. But on ABC, Myeshia Johnson said Wilson’s account was “100 percent” accurate. Last week, La David Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, said the same to the Washington Post.
Trump’s response to the soldiers’ deaths came under intense scrutiny last week following a Rose Garden press conference Oct. 16 in which he falsely claimed that former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush did not call families of fallen soldiers.
“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Trump told reporters in that press conference. “I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it.”
In a Fox News Radio interview the next day, Trump refused to clarify the remarks — and in the process invoked chief of staff John Kelly’s dead son, who died while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.
“There’s nothing to clarify,” Trump said. “I think I’ve called every family of somebody that’s died, and it’s the hardest call to make. And I said it very loud and clear yesterday. The hardest thing for me to do is do that. Now, as far as other representatives, I don’t know. I mean, you could ask Gen. Kelly — did he get a call from Obama?”
At a White House briefing on Thursday, chief of staff John Kelly delivered an impassioned defense of Trump’s outreach to those families and denounced Wilson’s criticism of the call as “selfish.”
Kelly said that Obama did not call him when his son was killed but stressed it was “not a criticism” of the former president.
“I appeal to America,” Kelly said. “Let’s not let this, maybe, last thing that’s held sacred in our society: a young man, young woman going out and giving his or her life for our country. Let’s try to somehow keep that sacred.”
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